Though perhaps not ideal for the hyperactive or thrill seekers Bo Kluea is a charming spot to while away a couple of days. Remote and picturesque, the tiny village of Bo Kluea lies in a scenic valley in the far northeast of Nan province, close to the Lao border.
Surrounded by rugged mountains and national parks – this part of the province has more forest cover remaining than many other districts – the settlement has a budding tourism scene with some fine accommodation options. This is a seriously off the beaten track yet fascinating destination with a special feature giving rise to the village’s name. Bo Kluea in Thai means salt well. The village has grown up around two natural saltwater wells which have been exploited for centuries if not millennia, providing Bo Kluea’s historical raison d’etre and principal present-day attraction.
For now very few foreign visitors make it up here so tourists are mainly Thai, though its remote location keeps even their numbers down. Bo Kluea retains an authentic, unspoilt feel and while – salt wells aside – there isn’t much to do here in terms of sights as such it is one of those places where doing nothing is a delightful pastime. Locals seem very happy to see a few foreigners up here so you can sit and pass the time of day in one of the town’s two very good coffee shops; wander around the tiny village, take a stroll down the valley along the banks of the Mang or sit in a riverside cafe sipping a cold one.
If you do have transport then Khun Nan National Park with hikes and an easily accessible waterfall is just a few kilometres up the road and Doi Phuka National Park, halfway to Pua, can be reached by public songthaew.
The village itself is tiny and nestled in a narrow scenic valley surrounded by largely wooded hills. The quaint old settlement lies compactly along the east bank of the Nam Mang – more stream than river - and the main street hosts, aside the famous salt wells, the only ATM, a couple of good coffee shops and grocery stores, a wat, and the excellent Bo Kluea Home guesthouse. Highways form a T-junction with the village squeezed between Route 1257, heading south to Santisuk, and the stream.
At the top end of the village Route 1256 crosses a bridge where you’ll find Bo Kluea View plus the area’s best restaurant, before heading off uphill to Doi Phuka and Pua. The third branch of the junction is formed by Route 1081, which passes Khun Nan National Park, just outside of town, before continuing due north over a torturous mountain road to Chaloem Prakhiat district and the Lao border crossing at Huay Kon.
The southern highway, Route 1257, has more restaurants and accommodation plus shops, the local clinic, police box and post office. Santisuk is around 50 kilometres, Chaloem Prakhiat some 80 and Pua around 60 kilometres away.
By Mark Ord